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09SEOUL982 2009-06-19 05:57:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Seoul
Cable title:  

SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; June 19, 2009

Tags:   PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US 
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 SEOUL 000982

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; June 19, 2009

TOP HEADLINES


--------------------------



Chosun Ilbo, All TVs
"(Public's Power) has Cut Political Lifeline of 100-day Old
Administration... Anger over Lee Myung-bak is
at Its Peak" Prosecutors Disclose Emails Written
by MBC "PD Diary" Scriptwriter

JoongAng Ilbo
Samsung Electronics' Price-Earnings Ratio (PER) Outstrips Nokia's
PER for First Time in Eight Years

Dong-a Ilbo
MBC's "PD Diary" Production Staffers Indicted for Controversial Mad
Cow Disease Episode; Prosecution Raises Possibility of "Political
Intention" behind Their Reporting

Hankook Ilbo, Segye Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun
Prosecutors Accuse "PD Diary" of 30 Cases of Distortion in Reporting
on Mad Cow Disease... Controversy Erupts over "Freedom of
Expression"

Hankyoreh Shinmun
MBC Staffers Indicted over Mad Cow Report...
"Tenacious Crackdown on Critical Media"


DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS


--------------------------



President Lee Myung-bak, in a June 17 meeting in Washington with
former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and other experts,
said that the cooperation of China and Russia is crucial in
persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions. (Chosun,
Hankook, Hankyoreh, Segye, Seoul)

The two Koreas are to meet today for a third round of
government-level talks on the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the
North. (All) Since Seoul is apparently considering closing the joint
industrial complex if Pyongyang continues its exorbitant demands for
higher wages for North Korean employees and more money for the
lease, today's meeting is likely to become a watershed in deciding
the fate of the complex. (Chosun)


INTERNATIONAL NEWS


--------------------------



According to the June 18 issue of The Washington Post citing a
senior North Korean defector, North Korea has collected hundreds of
millions of dollars from some of the world's largest insurance
companies on large and suspicious claims for transportation
accidents, factory fires, and other alleged disasters. (Chosun,
JoongAng, Segye, Seoul)


MEDIA ANALYSIS


--------------------------



-North Korea


--------------------------



Most ROK media quoted President Lee Myung-bak as saying in a June 17
meeting in Washington with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry
Kissinger and other experts: "The cooperation of China and Russia is
crucial in persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear
ambitions."

Conservative Chosun Ilbo gave front-page play to a June 18 report by
a sister paper of the Chinese Communist Party's official People's
Daily that the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is rapidly

SEOUL 00000982 002 OF 006


deteriorating, prompting the hasty decision to name his third son,
Kim Jong-un, as heir apparent.

Chosun, in a related development, quoted a North Korean source in
Beijing: "Beijing-based North Korean officials from Ponghwa
Hospital, where Kim's illness is being treated, are looking to
import expensive medical equipment, which has been banned since the
North conducted its first nuclear test in 2006. Pyongyang is also
seeking to import an emergency helicopter from overseas. Kim seems
to be in serious condition."

Most media also gave attention to a June 18 report by Japan's
Yomiuri Shimbun citing an analysis by the Japanese Defense Ministry
that North Korea may fire a long-range ballistic missile from its
Dongchang-ri site, on the northwestern coast, toward Hawaii between
July 4 and 8.

-Iran


--------------------------


Conservative Chosun Ilbo led its international news section with a
report on six straight days of street protests in Iran over the
disputed presidential election result. Chosun wrote in the
headline: "Will an Iranian Version of the Tiananmen Incident
Occur?... This Weekend Likely to Be a Watershed (in the Iranian
Situation)"

Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo, meanwhile, in a report titled "Will
Second Revolution Occur in Iran?," noted that young reform-minded
forces are leading the protests in defiance of the ruling circles'
30-year-long iron-fisted rule over the nation.

U.S. Financial Regulations
Moderate Hankook Ilbo commented in an editorial: "The Obama plan is
a step in the right direction because it focused on overhauling a
'culture of irresponsibility on Wall Street.' ... In order not to
repeat the mistake of 'locking the stable door after the horse has
bolted,' enhanced financial regulations are indispensable."


OPINIONS/EDITORIALS


--------------------------



MBC STAFFERS INDICTED OVER MAD COW REPORT
(Hankook Ilbo, June 19, 2009, Page 35)

Prosecutors indicted five staff members of the MBC program "PD
Diary" on charges of defamation (of the former agriculture minister)
and disruption (of U.S. beef sellers' business). Prosecutors
concluded that the program intentionally distorted and exaggerated
the danger of U.S. beef through mistranslations, translation
omissions, the distortion or omission of objective facts,
far-fetched conclusions, and scene editing.

It is evident that PD Diary did not give a "fact-based" report on
the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) risks of U.S. beef. The
program neglected its duty as a public broadcaster while
embellishing the report to suit the purpose of the program, rather
than delivering the facts as they are. As a good example, despite
experts' divergent views, the program reported that all downer cows
are infected with BSE and that Aretha Vinson died of variant
Creutzfeldt - Jakob disease (vCJD). Considering that the Seoul High
Court also ruled that PD Diary should correct four additional
statements of the report and air statements (which illustrate the
divergence of opinion among experts), we can only conclude that the
PD Diary's report was lacking in the objectivity, fairness and sense
of balance which any media report is supposed to have.

The producers claim that there were some mistakes in translation.
Based on the investigation results, their claims mean that the PD
Diary program directors made mistakes in as many as 30 scenes. It
is doubtful whether they could make such numerous errors in one
program.

However, (despite the numerous mistakes) the prosecutor's (charge)

SEOUL 00000982 003 OF 006


that the staffers defamed the former agriculture minister is not
convincing, even though the report was not factual.
The program did not intend to defame former Agriculture Minister,
Chung Woon-chun. Moreover, it is not easy to directly relate the PD
Diary episode to damages done to importers of U.S. beef. We should
bear in mind that when a critical report about the government sparks
social controversy, freedom of the media can suffer if the
government tries to settle the issue only with the rule of law. We
will wait for the decision of the court and watch closely to see
(whether) MBC will air corrections.


MBC CAN LEARN FROM MISTAKES
(JoongAng Ilbo, June 19, 2009, page 42)

Prosecutors yesterday indicted - without physical detention - five
staff members associated with the MBC program "PD Diary" on charges
of defamation related to an episode of the show that aired in April
of last year on the safety of U.S. beef.

Prosecutors claim the broadcaster intentionally distorted or
embellished 30 key scenes and defamed a former cabinet minister and
other plaintiffs.

On Wednesday, following a complaint from the Ministry for Food,
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Seoul High Court ordered
MBC to air corrections related to the episode.

The court also ruled that the program's claim that the ROK
government would be helpless to stop the spread of the human form of
mad cow disease here if it broke out in the U.S. was "false
information."

In a previous ruling, the court said that MBC didn't need to run
corrections on that particular bit of reporting.

It's fortunate that the truth is emerging about PD Diary's reporting
on mad cow disease, which has been the subject of numerous
investigations and court rulings. But judging from the relatively
low level of punishment meted out so far, we also feel the limits of
the current law.

After the program in question aired 14 months ago, the nation sunk
into a deep morass. It showed that a democratic system can be
shaken at its roots when a terrestrial broadcaster abuses its power
for its own interests.

Prosecutors have just begun to uncover the entire truth about these
reports.

The original tape of the program, which is needed to determine what
really happened and why, has not been made available because of
MBC's opposition.

The prosecution shouldn't think that placing criminal liability on a
few people is enough. They have to do their utmost to reveal the
truth, and honor the public's right to know what happened during
trials.

MBC must now accept the court's judgments, apologize to the people
and lead efforts to uncover the truth.

Top executives at the British broadcaster, BBC, resigned when the
network's 2003 reporting on the war in Iraq turned out to be false.
It wasn't because they were afraid of lawsuits but because they felt
a heavy responsibility as employees of a public broadcaster.

MBC also should assume responsibility for its own incorrect
reporting and strive for fair and balanced journalism in the future.


We expect MBC to take this opportunity to transform itself into a
true public broadcaster. For we, along with the public, will keep a
close eye on the network's future endeavors.

SEOUL 00000982 004 OF 006



(This is a translation provided by the newspaper, and it is
identical to the Korean version.)


CUTTING THE ADMINISTRATION'S LIFELINE?
(Dong-a Ilbo, June 19, 2009, page 31)

"Ms. Kim, how do you feel seeing this for yourself? Do you see what
you've done? Are you satisfied now? Ha, ha," said the producer of
the MBC investigative news show, "PD Notebook," Kim Bo-seul to the
show's writer Kim Eun-hee.

"I feel uneasy as the power of the public - the power which cut the
political lifeline of the 100-day old administration, the power
which cracked the indomitable castle of the Dong-A (Ilbo), Chosun
(Ilbo), and JoongAng Ilbo, and the power which achieved things that
no media or group did before - seems to be disappearing," Kim
(Eun-hee) wrote this in an e-mail message sent to her acquaintance.


PD Notebook is a program that disrupted Korean society last year by
exaggerating and distorting the risks of the human version of mad
cow disease. The two messages were sent by both the producer and
writer of the show in late June last year, when illegal violent
protests erupted against U.S. beef imports.

Prosecutors announced the results of their investigation into the
factual distortion case involving the MBC show. One of Kim's e-mail
messages that was disclosed said, "I worked fanatically right after
the presidential election, when I hated Lee Myung-bak the most."
This shows that the show's episode on mad cow disease (was premised
on) a political agenda to upend the newly inaugurated Lee
Administration.

The probe concluded that the program distorted 30 facts and four
producers and one writer were indicted without detention. Though
prosecutors applied charges of defamation and interference in
business, the national and social losses incurred by the program's
lies are tremendous. Protests against U.S. beef imports instigated
by PD Notebook continued for more than three months, leaving Seoul
in chaos, tainting the country's image abroad, and negatively
impacting the economy.

The program's production staff escaped a subpoena by crying
suppression of the media, and blocked the execution of a raid and
arrest warrant. Uncovering the truth behind the scandal lies in the
hands of the judiciary. The show's producers dared to distort and
exaggerate facts for ideological and political purposes and must
face justice.

The producers claim that politically minded prosecutors suppressed
freedom of speech, a democratic principle. In a lawsuit filed by
the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry demanding that the
show air a follow-up program after issuing a correction, the Seoul
High Court ruled that the program should air a revised program after
adding two more facts to the previous ruling. The ruling showed
that the program purposely distorted facts while violating the basic
code of ethics. Despite the ruling, the program (production staff)
remains belligerent and continues to (rally behind a claim of)
freedom of speech. The MBC executive board is not free from blame
since it failed to hold the producers accountable for almost a year
after the program was aired.

MBC's role in political scandals is nothing new. The station was
involved in the smear campaign against Grand National Party
candidate Lee Hoi-chang before the 2002 presidential election, the
2004 impeachment of former President Roh Moo-hyun, and the 2007 BBK
scandal that sought to taint Lee Myung-bak's presidential candidacy.
MBC's union took power when the left-wing government (of the late
1990s and early 2000s) took office, and the network's structural
problems encouraged a biased and distorted PD Notebook. Serious
discussion is necessary to correct the situation in which groups
with biased ideology sway the media.

SEOUL 00000982 005 OF 006



(This is a translation provided by the newspaper, and it is
identical to the Korean version.)


VIOLENCE AGAINST FREE PRESS CLOAKED AS LAW
(Hankyoreh Shinmun, June 19, 2009, page 23)

Yesterday, prosecutors indicted five producers and writers from the
MBC program "PD Notebook" for defamation and disruption of
operations.

The investigative report in question was broadcast April 29, 2008
and warned of the dangers of mad cow disease, urging the ROK
government to carefully consider its decision regarding relaxing
sanitary regulations on U.S. beef imports. The episode aired
criticism of government policy and represented an expression of
opinion falling under constitutionally protected freedoms of press
and speech; however, prosecutors are pursuing charges of defamation
against the show's producers. This is a clear case of media
suppression with a total disregard for the Constitution. While all
of society is of one voice in expressing concern about democracy's
regression, it appears the administration is once again blatantly
pushing it backwards.

The public prosecutor's office is likely aware that it is a stretch
to investigate and indict producers of the PD Notebook. It has been
said the investigation team that first took on the case cleared the
producers of any suspicions. The chief prosecutor in charge
ultimately handed in his resignation over the matter after
protesting the order to conduct the investigation. Still, the public
prosecutor's office pressed the matter, and replaced the entire
investigative team (with a team) that finally presented the exact
opposite conclusion of the first team a few months later. It is
clear that there is no other explanation for this outcome other than
to say this is a politically motivated investigation meant to deal a
blow to the popular spirit of the candlelight vigil demonstrations
and to gain a measure of retribution. It is for this reason that
prosecutors are being popularly criticized for being "investigators
for hire."

The prosecutors have presented exceedingly shoddy reasoning;
especially, first and foremost, using the idea that an investigative
report critical of government policy defames the public official
responsible for setting the policy. Criticizing and checking the
government is the essential role of the press and a core press
freedom. If the press is to perform this function, it is assumed
that it should criticize policy carried out by public officials. If,
as the prosecutors are claiming, reporting on problems in the
negotiations regarding U.S. beef imports are "obviously nothing
short of a criticism of the Agricultural Minister, whose office
presided over the negotiations," any critical reporting becomes
impossible. Presenting this sort of fallacious logic is a form of
violence. If this logic is applied, media critical of the
administration are subject to investigation and prosecution at any
time. It is plain as day that this will result in the curtailment
of the press.

The ROK's courts have been expressing the view that restrictions on
press freedoms with regard to public officials and issues of public
interest should be relaxed. They are also of the view that even a
report for the public benefit that contains some degree of
exaggeration or error is difficult to recognize as a violation of
the law if the information is trustworthy enough for the reporters
to believe in its truth. Yet prosecutors are taking a few errors in
translation, editing issues, and misunderstandings about the issue
as a reason to charge the producers PD Notebook as if they presented
an entirely distorted report. Prosecutor's determination to find
fault has given rise to suspicions that the motivation behind the
investigation is unrelated to the proof available that supports the
criminal charges being pressed against the producers

In the Park Yeon-cha case, prosecutors disclosed personal
information or excessive details about the charges to the press and

SEOUL 00000982 006 OF 006


received heavy criticism about this. Instead of reflecting over
these tactics, however, they went and engaged in the same kind of
behavior for this case. However, in this situation, despite
disclosure of personal e-mail contents and statements from one of
the writers, which were referenced as "materials from which an
intent to distort can be surmised," prosecutors have been utterly
unable to shed light on how such private ideas and personal
correspondences might have actually affected the production of the
program. The Korean Central Intelligence Agency, the predecessor to
the National Intelligence Service, sought to use the National
Security Law to punish the democratization movement and employed
similar methods.

In addition, the prosecutors have been unable to show a direct
causal relationship between the PD Notebook report and the damages
claimed by importers of U.S. beef, which can be expected in a
made-to-order contract investigation. It is questionable whether
the public prosecutors' office can even talk about pride as a
judicial organization following this kind of behavior. It is clear
that this indictment against PD Notebook is aiming to issue a
warning that all reports critical of the government will be shut off
at the source. This is what a dictatorship looks like, and must be
brought to an immediate stop.

(This is a translation provided by the newspaper, and it is
identical to the Korean version.)


PD DIARY'S SCRIPTWRITER'S EMAILS DISCLOSED BY PROSECUTORS
(Chosun Ilbo, June 19, 2009, Page 31)

The e-mails of PD Diary's scriptwriter Kim Eun-hee, which were
disclosed on June 18 by prosecutors, clearly revealed that there
were political motives behind PD Diary's episode on the Bovine
Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) risk of U.S. beef, a report that
created fear and panic among many Koreans and drove them into the
streets (to protest) a year ago.

The reason why the producers of PD Diary did not hesitate to make
preposterous distortions was plainly revealed in scriptwriter Kim's
e-mails. Although they publicly said that they sought to protect
the people's right to know, and their health, the real purpose was
to disturb and topple the government that they opposed.
Nevertheless, the producers of PD Diary argued that the prosecutors'
investigation is a "suppression of media freedom." After creating
social chaos and serious division by fabricating and distorting
facts, they are now saying something to the effect of, "Since we
simply exercised the freedom of the media, it is wrong to make an
issue of it." The freedom of the media, guaranteed by the
Constitution, does not apply to malicious instigation, fabrication,
and irresponsible behavior.

It has been more than one year since the PD Diary episode in
question was aired. However, to date MBC has not taken steps to
examine the truth and hold anyone responsible. The broadcasting
company only tried to cover up (the truth) after holding emergency
meetings. MBC is an organization that has long been unable to
rectify its own wrongdoings.


STANTON